Oral Answers to Questions

David Rutley Excerpts
Thursday 9th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab) - Hansard

9. What steps the Government is taking to reduce the risk of wildfire destroying moorland. [910785]

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Parliament Live - Hansard

It is good to see the hon. Lady back in her place for the first DEFRA questions since returning from maternity leave and the safe arrival of baby James. Congratulations.

Protecting our moorland from wildfires is essential. The risk of severe damage from wildfire on wet, well functioning blanket bog is relatively low. Natural England is working with landowners and land managers through its uplands programme to develop long-term management plans. We are also currently undertaking a wildfire review to ensure that our future land management policies minimise the risks of wildfire.

Holly Lynch Portrait Holly Lynch - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to the Minister for that response and for his kind words.

In West Yorkshire alone, there have been three significant wildfires in the past 18 months. The Minister will be aware that, if we manage our moorland and peat bogs responsibly, they will lock in water, which protects us from flooding; they will lock in carbon; and, kept wet, they will also protect us from wildfires. What more can we do to manage those moorlands and peat bogs responsibly?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that healthy wet peatlands help carbon storage and minimise and reduce fire risk. That is why peatland restoration is an urgent priority. DEFRA is currently funding four large-scale peatland restoration projects across England, involving a £10 million fund, including in the north of England uplands, the Welsh borders, Dartmoor and Exmoor and, of course, the south Pennines: vital work that we need to take forward.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

Staffordshire moorlands has some magnificent heathland, but it has been affected by severe fires in the last year. Those are sometimes caused by disposable barbecues. Has the Minister looked at ways of ensuring the more responsible purchase and use of such barbecues?

David Rutley Portrait David Rutley - Parliament Live - Hansard

We work closely with Natural England and the Home Office to see how we can tackle these issues. Operational plans are in place with fire services as well.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

10. What plans his Department has to develop and resource a recovery plan for seabirds. [910786]